Sometimes the best way to correct a bad bite is with a palatal expander, a device that fits in the roof of the mouth to exert gentle outward pressure and gradually widen the palate. Crowded upper teeth or a cross bite are indicators that a palatal expander may be an appropriate early intervention to give the adult teeth enough room to come in properly.
A palatal expander is best installed before the patient’s bones have completely fused, something that typically happens between about 14 and 16 years of age. Attached to the upper teeth, the expander has a screw device in the center for increasing the tension little by little, nudging the upper jaw out. Either the patient or a parent can use he expander’s special “key” to make the necessary daily adjustments—the illustrations below show how. (You can also download the instructions in a printable PDF document.)
A palatal expander is usually worn for two to six months in order to achieve and reinforce the desired realignment. As the palate widens, a gap will likely be created in the front teeth. This may close on its own in time, but if not it can be corrected with various types of braces.
Adjusting your palatal expander
In a well-lighted area, tip the head back.
Insert the key firmly in the center keyhole.
Push the key toward the back of the mouth to rotate the expander’s center piece until the next keyhole appears and the key meets the back of the expander.
To remove the key, press it back and down toward the tongue.
For additional questions, contact us!